Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!

Creating A Family Tradition

Creating your own family tradition

Forging a family tradition takes time and effort. . .May my faltering experiences with this bring you hope and encouragement in this season.

"Joy to the world, the Lord is come..." As the disbelieving eyeballs of customers and tellers at our local bank peered at us in astonishment, my children and I continued to quietly carol as unobtrusively as possible in that most unusual setting. Why were we caroling in a bank? Because friends who worked there knew that we enjoyed Christmas caroling and that we were used to performing for strangers—we were headed for our local Mexican restaurant to carol next! How did Christmas caroling in oddball places become a family tradition? The answer took twenty years, with many fits and starts, to get us to that moment.

It all started when I visited a friend’s class in college. The professor said, "Tradition and ritual are the glue that holds families together. They give a strong sense of belonging and continuity, which is absolutely vital, especially in today's culture. . ." Coming from a broken family, I really wanted that kind of glue! It was determined right then: whenever I married and had kids, we would come up with family traditions and rituals to give us this sense of belonging and community. The problem I didn’t understand was that instituting a tradition—for the sake of tradition—could easily become a mere external effort with little meaning. . . Only when the traditions come out of your heritage, or from the things that give your unique family joy, can that amazing sense of family continuity and strength develop. And it will take time to find them.

I learned this the hard way. I kept trying the traditions others raved about, growing weary and grumpy as nothing seemed to stick. My children watched me with puzzled faces as I kept growling instead of grinning my way through all these attempts.

I had forgotten the reason we were doing this.

The external rituals and traditions are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.The point wasn't to hear exclamations from friends about how incredible our traditions were or have magazine-worthy photo shoots! The point was to simply give our children and ourselves a special sense of belonging, an ongoing sense of being the "Waring family," a delight in the distinctives which make our memories. I slowly discovered that the external traditions and rituals are valuable only as they come from the heart of the family.

Somehow, the tradition of caroling began to rise to prominence for our music-loving, concert-giving family of singers. It was such fun to see the delight on friends' faces when they opened the door to our homemade music. There was a camaraderie with one another as we raced from house to house to give our special "Waring" gift to people all over town. And, there was the continuity of caroling year after year, since it didn't take much time and required no monetary funding, just a warmed-up voice and a stout scarf and hat. . .and gloves. . .and boots. . .and parka!

I realized how important this tradition had become when my college kids began to ask over the phone, "When will we be going caroling?" and to express, "I can't WAIT to go caroling!" This was the one tradition that stuck. It was the one Waring tradition that brought all of us joy and satisfaction.

So that is how, several years ago, we came to carol in a bank. . .and a Mexican restaurant. . .and a music store. . .and all over town.

May you discover this season some repeatable expression that can give YOUR unique family a special tradition that brings joy to you all!

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Is it time for Christmas Break?

Do you find your thoughts running to Christmas?

Have you noticed that your kids are more fidgety, more distracted, and less enthused about studying Daniel Boone than they were in October? Why is that?

Actually, are YOU less enthused about math and science and history right now? Do you find your thoughts running more and more to Christmas—when to get the tree, when to decorate, when to clean the house before guests arrive, how many cookies to make, and what gifts would delight the hearts of your family?

Are you feeling guilty about your lack of “commitment” to homeschooling and frustrated with your kids because they’re not with the program, particularly if your lesson planner tells you that if they could just finish THIS chapter, THAT project, and THOSE books, you could be “done” in time for Christmas? Is the pressure mounting?

Believe me, I understand. In the words of a good friend, “Been there, done that, got the bumper-sticker.”

I’ve been learning a lot lately about the value of listening to your heart when it comes to these kinds of struggles and pressures. Though, like you, I can force myself to do things I don’t want to do, ignoring ongoing internal messages like, “I wish we had time to enjoy this season,” often means ignoring what the Lord is offering us.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that I’ve missed a lot of wonderful opportunities to take in and enjoy the moment, the season, the special time of year because I was so busy trying to get my impossible to-do list done BEFORE I could rest and enjoy. These moments, these seasons, these Christmas-when-my-kids-are-home don’t last forever. . . If we’re determined to keep marching through our planned out schedule, the precious gifts—the laughter, the fun, the making-memories-that-happen-when-you-do-unexpected-things—will be lost.

Throw textbooks in the closet & enjoy the next 3 weeks!So, dear friends, if I could share a bit of wisdom that I wish someone had shared with me when I was homeschooling, when you see your kids and yourself longing for Christmas break, consider carefully throwing the textbooks in the closet and thoroughly enjoying the next three weeks!!

Play with your kids, plan special times, decorate cookies together, make a snowman or go swimming (depending on your climate!), go caroling at a senior citizens’ home, and all of the other things you’ve wished you had time to do. Immerse yourself thoroughly in giving and celebrating this Christmas in the ways that matter to your family.

And, just so you know, when you take this kind of a thorough break, when you come back to “school,” your hearts will be refreshed and ready to go. That’s what makes listening to your heart a win/win!!

Remember, stay relational.

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What's Right with Christmas?

I know. There are a LOT of things wrong with the way Christmas is celebrated in our culture. . .

  • The Christmas merchandising season now begins the day after Halloween;
  • Gift giving is increasingly more harried, hurried, and expensive; . . .to name a few.
  • Santa Claus is more prominent that the Child born in Bethlehem;

And, then there are the folks in the church who are quick to point out that, perhaps:

Christmas was just the Christianized version of the Roman winter solstice celebration;

  • Our cherished traditions—like decorating Christmas trees and festive holiday lighting—come from non-Christian sources, and, are thus, suspect.
  • The birth of Jesus was not in December;

It’s enough to remove Christmas cheer from your heart, isn’t it?

Leaving behind all the crass commercialism and religious arguments, I’d like to share with you a few things that are absolutely RIGHT with Christmas—the first, historic, Jesus-born-in-a-stable Christmas. We’ll consider the historic moment, the location, and the way-beyond-normal occurrences.

To start, Galatians 4:4 speaks of God sending Jesus “in the fulness of time.”

What does that mean? Obviously, it is not referring to December 25, so what made the timing of His birth so absolutely perfect?

It’s a question so rich and complex that one could spend a lifetime digging into the answer, but the short version would include these points:

  • The Greeks, Romans, Gauls (of western Europe), Britons, Jews, Syrians, and Egyptians were all, for the first time, combined into one peaceful and seemingly permanent Roman empire, established in 27 B.C.;
  • East and West were able to freely mingle during the Roman Empire, which meant large cities became the meeting places for different languages and people groups who lived within the boundaries of the empire.
  • This Pax Romana,” or Roman Peace, allowed a more settled, peaceful environment in the Mediterranean region than had ever before been possible—and lasted for more than 200 years;

This was an utterly unique moment in ancient history. It was now possible to take news from one end of the Roman Empire to the other in a very short time, and the metropolitan mix of languages and cultures allowed people to learn of other places and ideas in ways not unlike our current globalism.

Then, consider the geographical dimension of where the birth of Jesus took place. We know it was in Bethlehem, the city of David. But if we zoom out a bit, we discover:

  • Bethlehem was only about six miles from Jerusalem, the metropolitan city of the Roman province of Judea;
  • This province was at the strategic intersection of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Location, location, location. This was the perfect place—considering trade routes—from which to send out good news.

An utterly unique moment in a perfect location.

And, into this historic setting, we see supernatural events suddenly taking place:

  • Angelic announcements to Zachariah, Mary, Joseph, and shepherds in the fields with their sheep;
  • A heavenly warning to this family to escape to Egypt—with the incredible provision of gold, frankincense and myrrh at just the right moment.
  • Wise men from the East, led by a star, bringing kingly gifts to an impoverished family;
  • A baby born of a virgin.

The more we ponder the events of Jesus birth, the greater our awe will be at His entrance into our world. And, friends, that is what is right with Christmas

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Teaching Tip 12 — Following the Rabbit Trail

Many years ago, we had a basset hound named Max (think sleepy dog, drooping eyes, and s-l-o-w motion). There were only two things that got Max’s attention and caused him to hustle—food and the scent of a rabbit. At that point, we lived in a somewhat rural area, with wooded acres to explore. Normally, Max stayed close to home and the food bowl, but there were times we would hear his distinctive, “Ah-woo-woo,” and the crashing sounds of a rather large dog running for all he was worth.

I don’t think he ever caught one. . .but he never got tired of following the rabbit’s trail.

Now, let’s talk about kids. Specifically, let’s talk about kids when it comes to learning math, science, literature, and history. Do you ever notice a marked decline in their enthusiasm? Do their eyes start to droop when you bring out the books? Do they drag through the day UNTIL school is done?

If so, then a rabbit trail is just what you need.

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Dear Friends,

Right now, do you feel like you are overcoming. . .or are you going under?

Whether struggling with illness, difficult relationships, lack of finances, unwanted changes, crushing disappointments, or numbing loss, many of us are in the midst of a storm.

In this place of overwhelming need, I have learned that someone else’s story of experiencing God’s faithfulness and goodness in great difficulties brings a spark of hope, a measure of courage, and an increased fervency in prayer.

My bookshelves are filled with those kinds of stories, of people like you and me who overcame through their faith in God. One of my favorites is the story of Gladys Aylward, a British serving girl who, just prior to WWII, went to China in obedience to God’s call.  As unlikely as it seems, this small woman experienced extraordinary help to do impossible things in life-and-death situations.

In the book, No Mountain Too High, the author described Gladys fleeing the Japanese army with one hundred children and with a price on her head for being a spy for the Chinese. Heading for the safety of southern China and a Christian orphanage, she and this huge group of children walked—many of them barefoot—for twelve days across the mountains, scrounging whatever food and shelter they could find along the way. They knew the Yellow River must be crossed before they would finally be free from the terrors of war raging just behind them.

But when they arrived at the river, there were no boats.

There were no people at the riverside village.

There was no food.

Gladys and the children kept waiting, praying, seeking the Lord, asking Him for deliverance. But this wasn't casual prayer. They weren’t facing a minor inconvenience. It didn't last for the few moments it takes to read in a book.

No. It was real life. The Japanese army could show up at any moment. And, since they had offered a huge price for Gladys' capture as a spy, it was a terrifying consideration. In exhaustion, hunger, and discouragement, her prayers were not lofty. They were nitty-gritty and real.

Amazingly, this group of refugees stayed right by the Yellow River, praying and waiting for deliverance for three days. Three days!! It seems almost impossible that one woman and one hundred children who were sick and hungry, helpless and tense, could hold on—when, at any moment, they could be taken. There was nothing else to be done but to wait and pray. There was no going back across the mountains and they could not cross the Yellow River without boats. There was no other path to safety. If God did not rescue them, they would die or be captured.

Her situation was as real, as fraught with difficulty and fear, as yours is today.

So, what happened? After the agonisingly long and difficult days of crossing the mountains and praying beside the river, help arrived from a totally unexpected source. Chinese soldiers, who had hidden a boat in the bushes, found these children and woman, and ferried them across the river.

Not one died, not one was captured.

Hope rises in our own heartThough Japanese aircraft patrolled the river and Japanese soldiers were watching the river, no one stopped or even challenged Gladys and her children from crossing. She was able to successfully deliver all of these precious children to the orphanage (another incredible part of her story) where they were safe and cared for.

It is easy, even exhilarating, to read about in a book, isn’t it? And, as we read, suddenly, hope rises in our own heart. We consider the character of God as seen in Gladys' story, and wonder if God might provide us with an equally impossible rescue.

I have learned in my own journey that His goodness is not limited to people in history. His compassionate love for us knows no bounds, and His power to save passes our comprehension.

Our times are in His hands.

He works all things together for our good.

He is utterly faithful.

Gladys’ story demonstrates so clearly that, though His ways are not our ways and His timing is seldom comfortable, yet, we can trust that He is in the process of answering our prayers, sending help, and providing an unexpected way to overcome.



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